Whispers of a Dead God

Into The Woods
An unlikely alliance leads to a thief's treasure, and more...

The Morning After

Waking up in the Lonely Goat Inn the next morning after solving Bealzethor‘s challenge, Aryn, Glen, and Crying Storm were confronted by Craghand Irondelve with an interesting proposition. It seemed that the elf, De’Naryn Sparrowsong, who had stolen a good sum of gold from House Limlugeth, had high-tailed it out of town early that morning headed for Grimwarden Forest. They were wary to agree at first, but saw value in having the dwarf on their side.
Aryn had convinced Rose Goodlight, the halfling lass from the nearby Goodlight Farm to accompany her as a squire. Rose said her goodbyes to her father and gathered a few belongings from her home before joining Aryn on horseback to meet up with the rest of the group at the stables.

Wolf Pack

Crying Storm and Craghand tracked De’Naryn’s trail into the forest, but the party was in such a rush to hunt down the thief, they didn’t notice the pack of wolves circling about for an attack. Rose, in her first taste of real danger, was gravely wounded and dragged into the woods by a wolf. Aryn quickly rushed to her aid, while Glen, Crying Storm, and Craghand fought off the rest of the pack.
The battle left them weary, but nevertheless, they pressed on deeper into the forest, closely following De’Naryn’s trail until it ended at the base of a large tree on a slight hill. Upon closer inspection, they discovered a small hole hidden between the tree’s roots that led to a cave system under the hill.

Descent

It was immediately apparent that the cave was not abandoned as the group squeezed inside. Spider webs covered the place, and soon enough, the adventurers found themselves faced with spider swarms crawling over their bodies. Through magic and some quick thinking, they were able to dispatch the swarms and continue deeper into the cave in search of the elf and his stolen treasure.
One side passage was partially flooded with water, and Glen and Aryn ordered Cupcake to dive down and see where it lead, despite the fact that the pitiful lad could not see anything in that darkness and had no skill in swimming. Minutes passed, and Glen decided to go in after him. The long, narrow, underwater passage was even a challenge for the kobold, who was at his last desperate bit of air by the time he reached the other side. There, he found Cupcake’s unconscious form floating face down in the water. They appeared to be at the bottom of some sort of deep hole. Unfortunately, their splashing attracted both friends… and foes… the passage above was home to a couple of hungry giant spiders.

A Battle for Their Lives

Crying Storm, Aryn, Rose, and Craghand heard the sounds of their friends in distress from deeper in the caves, and arrived to see a battle with giant spiders well underway. They leaped into action.
A thrilling battle ensued. Glen and Cupcake in their vulnerable position at the bottom of the water-filled hole, struggled to fend off one hungry spider while the other matched Aryn and Craghand. Crying Storm and Rose hung back, making sure nothing would surprise the group from the rear.
Eventually, they won the day, slaying both spiders and rescuing Glen and Cupcake from certain death. The unconscious body of De’Naryn Sparrowsong lay near a couple of wooden chests containing stolen Limlugeth gold, which Aryn was able to unlock and recover.

Aftermath

Craghand was mostly interested in capturing the elf alive so that he could bring him in for a lucrative bounty. He rested up and healed his wounds with the rest of the party before clapping the elf in irons and leading him back to Westwatch in order to claim the reward.
Glen and Aryn discovered another small area of the cave that contained the cocooned corpses of what appeared to be human druids. Among their possessions was a fine leather helm set with a pair of deer antlers, as well as a masterfully crafted wooden spear and a few potions of healing.
It was at this time that Glen decided to more carefully examine the strange amulet he had recovered from Kristoff Anderson’s body. It was inlaid with a carved green jewel in a strange shape that Glen could not recognize, for he had never seen it before. But he could tell that it held some sort of religious significance.
The group cleared out of the caves and parted ways with Craghand and De’Naryn. While the dwarf and his prisoner were headed back to Westwatch, Glen and Aryn were determined to push deeper into Grimwarden forest. Glen had won the deed to a castle from Baelzethor, and he intended to claim it.

A Castle Reclaimed

The castle was not too much farther into the woods, but once they arrived, it was clear that the structure was not in great condition. The first floor was in serviceable shape, but the upper floors and some of the outbuildings had decayed with time and become unusable. It was clear that repairs, time, and money would be needed in order to restore this castle to glory.
Seeing the ever more pressing need for funds, Glen and Aryn made a plan to set off for Mistvale, Cupcake’s home town. Surely his family would pay a handsome reward for his safe return.

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The Lonely Goat Inn
Good ale, warm beds, & eternal hellfire

After successfully retrieving the Crown of Tarrakas from the Temple of Grumbar, the adventuring party, now known as the Valiant Crowned, has made their way to the Lonely Goat Inn. The Inn is a small complex consisting of the large inn itself, which has a well-stocked bar and dining area on the first floor and rooms of various comfort levels on the two top floors, a stable and stablemaster’s house/ supply shop, a central green with a gazebo and a well, and a small farm a short ways off with a field for fresh vegetables and grapevines, a pen and barn for livestock, and a rather large, private farmhouse.
The Lonely Goat Inn takes its name from a mounted goat head above the central fireplace in the tavern part of the Inn. No one agrees where the goat head came from or why it is mounted above the fireplace.

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A Motley Crew

Upon arriving at the Lonely Goat Inn, Quincy (a bugbear sorcerer) took the opportunity to magically disguise himself as a burly, muscular half-orc so that he could fit in a little better without drawing too much attention to himself. This had the unintended consequence of gaining the attention of a fierce looking, elderly orc in the tavern, who immediately marked Quincy as a fellow warrior.
Hoping to use this chance to gain a squire, Aryn inquired of a beautiful young halfling woman if the farm down the road might be home to a lady in waiting or some such person. Unbeknownst at the time, she was speaking to Rose Goodlight, who lived and worked at that farm. Rose, demonstrating her tough personality, took offense to the fancy looking stranger’s implication that she was a lady in waiting. Aryn, however, had her sights set on acquiring a servant. It would take some persuading (and a good deal of fine wine) for Rose to finally lighten up.
Glen, the kobold cleric, surveyed the common room of the Inn and spotted a paladin of Bahamut, Kristoff Anderson, who looked like he had suffered a head wound as his head was heavily bandaged. Glen approached him at his spot on a couch by the large central fireplace and offered his healing services in exchange for a small fee. Something about the man seemed off, but he was willing to trade a few expensive looking rings in return for a healing spell. It wasn’t Glen’s finest heal, but it did manage to take a bit of the man’s stink away for a little while at least.
Around this time, Glen and Aryn decided to spend the night in the utmost comfort the Inn had to offer. They rented two of the most expensive suites on the third floor with private wash tubs and feather beds. Cupcake was sent upstairs to put Glen’s luggage away and draw a bath.
In the meantime, Quincy was busy making friends with the tough looking orc. Glad to finally meet another with orc blood in his veins so far from the Greatspire Mountains, the orc, Lurog of Clan Blacktooth, challenged him to a contest of honor — an arm wrestling match.
Immediately drawn to the prospect of a contest where he might win some coin, Glen trotted over and made a bet with the orc. If they would both agree to arm wrestle blindfolded, he would wager an ale on the winner. Lurog agreed, and as soon as his eyes were covered, Glen cheated and cast a guidance spell on Quincy to boost his chances of winning the contest of strength. It was a close match, but in the end, Lurog victoriously slammed Quincy’s hand down onto the table and proudly declared himself the champion. Glen begrudgingly held his end of the bargain and paid for a round of ales at the bar.

Harold Vernmeyer’s Magnificent Elixir

As they drank together, an old man burst in through the front door carrying an unconscious woman in his arms and pleading for help. The adventurers helped him carry her to the couch near the fire.
The old man, Harold Vernmeyer claimed that his daughter, Grace Vernmeyer, had suddenly fallen ill and stopped breathing on their carriage ride to the Inn. As if suddenly remembering something, he reached into a leather satchel and produced a small vial of blue liquid. Hoping as if beyond hope that this concoction of his would help, he gently tilted the girl’s head back and poured a trickle of the serum into her mouth. Miraculously, she stirred back to consciousness. Harold cried with joy and immediately proclaimed the wonder of his latest elixir — a potion so powerful it could even bring someone back from the brink.
Suspicious of all this, Glen, Quincy, and Aryn examined the potion and determined that it was likely a scam of some sort. Meanwhile, Harold was eager to share his magnificent elixir to any of the patrons of the Inn for the mere price of 20 gold pieces. Sensing an opportunity, Glen and Harold arranged a meeting later after dinner in one of the Inn’s private rooms.
After things had settled down, Aryn turned her attention back to Rose. She bought a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses and sat down to talk with her. She apologized for any insult and tried to talk to Rose about her life at Goodlight farm, and of how fantastic a life of travel and adventure would be. After a few drinks, Rose became more friendly and seemed to be interested in Aryn’s tales about life as an adventurer. It seemed like there was one thing still bothering her though, something she was holding back.

The Fate of the Valiant Chosen

The bartender and proprietor of the Lonely Goat Inn, Goren Balenonn, took a particular interest in these adventurers. When he asked who they were, Glen, Aryn, and Quincy told him that they were a subsidiary of the Valiant Chosen known as the Valiant Crowned. Goren had known several of the members of the Valiant Chosen, as he had served them many times when they visited the Inn on their way to some adventure or another. He was extremely shocked and saddened when the group told him that the other members of the Valiant Chosen had all been killed defending a small village in the Helmcliff Hills from wolves.

A Secret Revealed

While ordering another drink from the bar, Aryn was surprised to meet an elf who claimed to recognize her as a member of House Limlugeth. He claimed to be a hunter from around these parts, but also claimed a knowledge of Aryn’s home town of Westwatch. Suspicious of this elf, Aryn intimidated him into coming up to her room for a private chat. She got him to admit that he was familiar with her family because he had recently impersonated a member of her family’s household guard in order to gain access to their treasure vaults and make off with a small fortune. His name was De’Naryn Sparrowsong. He begged Aryn to show mercy and not turn him in, offering her the location of where he had stashed the rest of his ill-gotten treasure as amends for his deed. Aryn seemed to agree to spare his life.
Meanwhile, Quincy helped himself to all the food in Glen’s minifridge, and Cupcake and Glen bathed and washed their clothes in preparation for dinner.

The Plot Thickens…

Leaving her room after speaking to De’Naryn, Aryn spied one of the patrons, a dwarf named Craghand Irondelve, pocketing a message as a messenger raven flew off over the Inn’s third-floor balcony. Stepping ever so quietly, she managed to pull a couple of small pieces of parchment from the dwarf’s pocket. They were letters that identified Craghand as a bounty hunter. One was from Aryn’s own family guard, detailing a wanted thief named De’Naryn Sparrowsong. The other was more disturbing. Aryn recognized it immediately as Lord Haldor‘s handwriting. It promised a reward of 200 gold pieces for each head the dwarf was able to bring back from the adventuring party that had betrayed him, or 500 gold pieces if they were captured and brought back alive.
Aryn met with Glen and Quincy to discuss this development. She milked some poison from her pet viper’s fangs just in case she needed to use it. They considered their options on how to proceed. Should they try to confront the dwarf? Could they possibly gain any allies in the tavern? Would it be possible to frame Craghand for a murder and turn the others against him while they looked like heroes?

Dinner Time

They continued to discuss this as they went down to dinner. The beautiful halfling Rose and the sturdy orc Lurog joined them at their table for dinner, and it seemed clear that the adventurers had won the friendship of these two. They learned that Lurog was the only surviving member of his clan and held a grudge against dwarves. He sought to satisfy a debt of honor and avenge his ancestors.
Rose began to feel comfortable enough to tentatively agree to coming with Aryn on her adventures. She wanted to think it over through the night, but in the meantime, she asked a curious favor of Aryn. Rose revealed that she and the injured paladin Kristoff had been lovers once. He had left on a quest and never returned, and she had thought that he died. But now, she was certain that the man with the bandage around his head, sitting alone in the corner of the tavern, was him. It hurt her that he appeared not to know who she was. She asked Aryn to go and talk to him. She had to know if there was a chance that Kristoff was simply faking the amnesia brought on by a head wound because he no longer wanted to be with her.
In the interest of gaining a potential ally, Aryn agreed to talk to him. It seemed clear that the paladin was at best confused, and at worst truly mentally impaired. Aryn convinced him to tell Rose that it was over between them for the sake of giving her some closure to their relationship. The ensuing interaction brought the poor girl to tears, and she retired to her room for the evening.

Charming Personality

Goren came over to the adventurers’ table with a proposition. He understood that they were adventurers of some renown, having worked alongside the Valiant Chosen and everything. He wondered if they could help him out with a small problem, and in return, he would show them his stock of private goods — special items that he would only sell to people he trusted. The problem was that his Uncle Bael was always bothering him, wanting to play a game of some kind. Goren was busy trying to run the Inn, and asked the adventurers if they could entertain his uncle by playing a game with him.
They were interested, but first, Glen had to attend the after-dinner meeting he had arranged with Harold Vernmeyer.
Meeting together in a private room, Glen wasted no time in getting straight to the point. He knew that Harold was a sham, and that he was essentially peddling snake oil… and Glen wanted in on the scheme. Casting a charm spell, Glen magically coerced Harold into telling him his secrets about the performance he and his daughter put on at every city, inn, and tavern they traveled to. Grace would sip from a diluted sleeping draught, Harold would make a scene as if she were dead, and once the potent blue-razzberry flavor of his so-called magnificent elixir touched her lips, she would awake as if brought back from the dead. This was often times enough to convince simple minded onlookers to purchase his magnificent elixir. Agreeing to continue discussing business terms later, they parted ways. Harold went up to his room for the night, and Glen joined his companions at the bar, ready to begin whatever game Goren’s uncle had in mind.

Fire, Brimstone, and a Puzzle

The adventurers followed Goren behind the bar and into the cellar, where the tielfing opened up a secret room and summoned his Uncle Bael via a red pentagram scrawled into the floor. It turned out that his uncle was Bealzethor the Wicked, Prince of Phlegethos the Fourth Hell, Flayer of Flesh, Doom Dealer, and Devourer of Flame, etc, etc. He was a prince of the Nine Hells who had grown weary of inflicting everlasting torment upon wicked souls. He was more interested in toying with mortals. The game he proposed was this; one of the patrons of the tavern was a lost soul that had somehow escaped from his domain. He needed to have a soul to take its place. Bealzethor hoped that the adventurers would be capable enough to discover who the lost soul might be, but he was willing to accept anyone they brought to him by midnight. As an added incentive, if they brought him the correct soul, he would share the deed to a nearby castle that they could claim as their own.
Quincy had agreed to stay in the common room to keep an eye on the dwarven bounty hunter that was after them, so it was up to Glen and Aryn to tackle this challenge.
Their first step was to make sure the contract Bealzethor wanted them to sign was up to snuff. Sure enough, upon close examination, they found a few unnecessary clauses and loopholes that they forced him to amend. Aryn was still too wary, so Glen ended up being the only one to sign. There was one stipulation. If they failed to find any soul to give Bealzethor by midnight, he would take one of them to fill its place in eternal torment among the flames of Phlegethos , the fourth Hell.

The Game’s Afoot

It was just after dinner when Glen and Aryn began their investigation. They first questioned Goren and his serving staff, two goblins named Inta and Nerf. None of them seemed to be souls worthy of eternal damnation. They had a suspicion about Kristoff, though.
Glen convinced him that he might be able to apply more holistic healing if Kristoff would let him examine his body and his head wound. They retreated to a private room and Glen did just that. The paladin’s skin seemed pale and slightly blue. The head wound was discovered to be a horrific gash where the skull had been split open to reveal the brain. The writhing maggots in the flesh surrounding the wound explained the foul stench Glen had observed earlier when interacting with the man. Still, Kristoff seemed only vaguely aware of his surroundings. Glen cast detect magic and sensed a curious enchantment aura about the man… and a faint magical essence from somewhere on the third floor as well.
In the meantime, Aryn was chatting with Grace Vernmeyer, the young lady who had been carried into the Inn by her father earlier in the evening. She seemed to have recovered all her vitality, and even flirted with Aryn. Eventually, they purchased another bottle of wine and moved the conversation up to Aryn’s room. An enjoyable time was had by all.

Striking a Deal

Making his way upstairs in search of the magic he was detecting, Glen soon found himself at the door to Harold Vernmeyer’s room. The charm spell from earlier had worn off, and Harold was rather peeved with the kobold for using such a tactic. He was still agreeable to their arrangement, though. He agreed to an endorsement deal. The Valiant Chosen would take a supply of Harold’s blue-razzberry flavored potions and advertise them throughout Nymeria in return for an endorsement payment. Glen also bought one of Harold’s sleeping draughts, which he figured may come in handy later.

A Tense Moment

After bidding farewell to Grace a short while later, Aryn met back up with Glen. In the hallway of the second floor, they encountered Craghand and decided to confront him about the bounties he was pursuing. The dwarf seemed like a deadly and capable fellow, but neither group gave an inch or was able to intimidate the other. The tense confrontation nearly came to blows, but Aryn was able to convince Craghand to give them time to persuade him not to follow through with his bounty. If they could offer him enough to buy his loyalty, he would consider it. He gave them until the next day.
Now, they were faced with an interesting scenario. They were tasked with sending someone to hell forever. Who better than a potential enemy? If they delivered Craghand to Bealzethor, it would solve their problem. But they would not gain a castle if he was not the right soul.
They were pretty certain that Kristoff was some sort of undead being. He had to be the lost soul. Had he given up his soul to save Rose, the woman he once loved, from some horrible fate? Was Rose a necromancer who had resurrected her lost lover Kristoff from the dead? They needed to get more info from the halfling woman before they could be sure.

By Any Other Name

The duo knocked on Rose’s door and woke her up to question her. She was a bit upset from the events earlier in the evening, but gave no indication that she was somehow implicated in harboring a lost soul worthy of an eternity in hell.

Time to Act

They were all but certain now that Kristoff was the right choice to deliver unto the Prince of the fourth level of hell. Now, they only had to find a way to convince him to follow them into the cellar. They knock on his door and tell him to come to the cellar so that they can treat his head wound. He refuses and locks the door. Aryn picks the lock and they attempt to intimidate him into going to the cellar. Kristoff behaves very strangely and resists them at first, but they tell him that they know he is undead. Aryn asks what kind of life he could possibly lead like this.
Kristoff tells them that he has been forsaken by his God. He dreams of fire and pain — a place he feels he has been before and never wished to return to. Aryn promises that they will help him and she gains his trust. He agrees to follow them to the cellar.
As soon as they open the secret door and Kristoff sees the pentagram on the floor, he knows that something is not right.
Glen and Aryn try to tell him that this is for the best. He cannot continue on this way. Aryn tells him to think of Rose. Would she want him to continue like this? He only shrieks, “You have deceived me! I won’t go back!”
Kristoff’s body crumples to the floor, lifeless as it has been this this entire time. The spirit that had been possessing the paladin’s body rises up and attacks. “I won’t go back!”
Aryn is so frightened by this that she turns to run. Her body is so severely affected that she feels like she has aged twenty years. Glen stands firm.
He commands the ghostly spirit to flee from him, invoking the holy power of his own deity. But the lost spirit resists. Instead, it reaches out and shocks Aryn to the core with a touch of withering necrotic energy. Glen has just enough time to call out for Bealzethor.
With a puff of red smoke and the scent of brimstone, the devil appears. The soul, seeing it’s captor once more, flies into a desperate rage and tries to attack him. In another puff of red smoke, Bealzethor and the ghost are gone.
The two companions barely have time to catch their breath before Bealzethor appears again. He seems incredibly pleased with them and notices that Aryn has suffered some serious effects from her encounter with the spirit. He motions her close and spirits her away to his palace in the flaming hellscape of Phlegethos, where he commands his chief wizard Salamandrus, a magma-infused slamander, to restore her.
The two of them then appear back in the material plane, and Bealzethor thanks them for platying his game. He is delighted that they made it so interesting.
Glen is awarded the deed to a castle in the Grimwarden Forest, and Bealzethor tells them that he is always up for a good game before departing back to his home plane for good.

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The Crown of Tarrakas
An ancient artifact... and its consequences...

Trapped!

After making their way through the crypts beneath the forgotten Temple of Grumbar in the Helmcliff Hills, the adventurers fought past a few skeletons and made their way to a stone antechamber. Aryn snooped around and discovered that many of the stone tiles set in the floor were dangerous traps that would give way to deep pits filled with wooden spikes. She convinced Glen to lend her a few potatoes and used them to mark the trapped floor tiles.

A Trap of Their Own

Once they had found a clear path through the antechamber, they discovered a large stone door barred with a heavy wooden crossbeam. Believing that there must be danger on the other side of the door, the adventurers took some time to set up a trap of their own before venturing onward.

Eight Thundercloud and Glen’s slave, Cupcake, worked together to fashion a spiked barricade which they set up facing the door. They then pulled off the heavy wooden beam, knocked loudly, and waited. There was no response, so Glen used the spell Thaumaturgy to force the stone door open.

Battle for the Crown

Beyond the stone door they saw a human male clad all in plate armor with a greatsword across his back. He was kneeling before a broken altar, and to Eight Thundercloud’s delight, she could see that the man was wearing the Crown of Tarrakas, the magical item that had consumed her thoughts and dreams for months on end. She taunted the man, saying “You look like death!” and lured him into battle.

The knight rose to face the adventurers with a consuming green flame in his eyes. Wavering between consciousness and unrelenting rage, he warned them to stay away before rushing forward to attack. In one swift motion of his greatsword, he laid Eight Thundercloud low and set his sights on Glen. He continued to focus on the Tabaxi who had taunted him and was easily baited into traps.

Between dodging the mad knight’s blows and sidestepping the potato tiles, the adventurers managed to revive their fallen companions. Aryn swiftly moved from shadow to shadow, launching several volleys of arrows at the knight, while Eight worked her magical spells upon him, and Glen did his best to take on the towering foe and heal his compatriots’ wounds. Cupcake sat in the corner of the room, hiding from danger in a puddle of his own cowardice.

Eight Thundercloud eventually led the knight onto a trapped floor tile, sending him tumbling into a pit of spikes. The adventurers were able to make short work of him then, and their foe did not last long. He finally fell to a punishing stab from Aryn’s rapier, and she quickly snatched the crown off his head.

Greed and Haunting

Battered and weary, the friends regrouped upstairs in the temple to take a rest and recover from the intense battle. While Aryn attempted to attune herself to the magics inherent in the Crown of Tarrakas, Glen lingered in the crypts, intrigued by a sarcophagus. He soon found himself overwhelmed by a powerful poltergeist who attacked him in revenge for disturbing his resting place. Luckily, the rest of the group arrived just in time to save the kobold’s life. In the end, some valuable treasure was obtained.

Out of the Frying Pan (?)

The next morning, the group set off Southward toward Bloodfang Vale. As they traveled, Aryn continued to try attuning herself to the crown. Each attempt was a battle of will as dark, evil thoughts of bloodlust seeped into her mind and corrupted her thoughts. She was unsuccessful in her first attempts.

Upon the road, the adventurers met with a hobgoblin ambush. Sent by the nafarious Lord Haldor, the hobgoblins had come to take the adventurers back to him at Bloodfang Vale… dead or alive. After a fierce battle, the hobgoblins were slain, and Eight Thundercloud had claimed their hippogriff mount as her own.

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And Into the Fire (?)

Perceiving that their return to Bloodfang Vale might not be met with welcome, the adventurers decided to make their way to The Lonely Goat Inn, where they would take some time to rest and recuperate before deciding their next plan of action.

In the meantime, Aryn had succeded in becoming attuned to the Crown of Tarrakas and had finally resisted it’s invasive dark urgings…. for now…

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